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Chimney Masonry & the Freeze/Thaw Process

If it’s been said once it’s been said a thousand times – water is the enemy of your chimney. It can cause a lot of damage in a short amount of time. Brick and mortar provides a very strong structure but if it’s allowed to, moisture that collects in pockets and cracks in the masonry will cause deterioration and damage. The freeze/thaw process is often the culprit that gives water the ability to wield its ruinous power.

What Is the Freeze/Thaw Process?

a masonry chimney surrounded by a snowy roofWater is known as the universal solvent. At a molecular level it can break down almost anything given enough time. This property of water is great for living things because it enables water to pick up nutrients as it flows through rocks and soil. However, it’s not great for your chimney. When water collects in minuscule pockets and openings in your mortar and brickwork, the water will cause start a deterioration process.

Now, when the temperature of water drops below its freezing point (32 degrees F), its molecules will arrange themselves in a six sided crystal shape. This causes the water to turn from its liquid state into its solid state that we know as ice. Ice is less dense than liquid water meaning that its volume expands around 9%. 

Simply put, when water freezes it expands, causing it to push against any and every opening it is contained in. Which, as you can imagine, isn’t great for your bricks and mortar. Ultimately, this pressure causes cracks to open up and larger pockets to form. And when the ice thaws more water is allowed to collect.

Of course when the temperatures drop again, the water will freeze again, and again the cracks will be forced open further. This process will continue throughout the winter months and, if left unchecked, can lead to major damage and an unstable chimney.

Is It Possible to Repair Water Damage in Bricks & Mortar?

If you have noticed that your brick and mortar chimney is already cracked and crumbling, do not fear. It is possible to repair damages and replace damaged parts of your chimney. If taken care of quickly, damage can be kept to a minimum and repairs are easy.

First, though, you need to assess the damage and note what parts of the chimney are damaged. This may be the best time to call Top Hat and Tails so our trained professionals can pinpoint the root of your issues and provide you with the best solutions. Here are some things we look for:

  • Cracked and crumbling mortar: If the mortar is cracking and crumbling between the bricks of your chimney, then a repointing job is likely in order.
  • Worn, damaged, or missing bricks: If we notice damaged, worn, deteriorated, or missing bricks, some of them may need replacing. 
  • Cracked chimney crown: If the chimney crown is cracked and falling apart, you will need to replace it.

If you have to repair mortar you will need to prepare for a tuckpointing job. Different areas of damage will require different types of repairs. Each type of job will require proper tools, knowledge, and specialty skills.

What Is Repointing?

a masonry chimney surrounded by a snowy roofRepointing is the process of removing old, weak, and deteriorating mortar and replacing it with new mortar. The first step is to get rid of that old mortar by scraping it out from between the bricks. This can be a tedious process and the use of proper tools is essential for a job well done.

Once the old mortar is removed, you will need to replace it with new mortar. There are many things to consider at this point. What color mortar will you use? What type of mortar will provide you with the strongest bond between bricks? What mortar will hold up to the weather in the future?

Finally, you will fill in the gaps from removing the old mortar with the new mortar. When done right, this will provide your chimney with renewed strength and protection from the elements. Be sure to always rely on a pro for the more reliable and aesthetically-pleasing results.

How Can I Prevent Future Masonry Damages?

Once your chimney is repaired, it is important that you waterproof your chimney so that future cracking and crumbling – due to the freeze/thaw process – doesn’t continue. The process of waterproofing involves the even application of specific products that will seal your brick and mortar and keep water out.

It is always best to trust a professional team – like us – for this job. We’ll use only the best waterproofing products to make sure that water cannot permeate your brick and mortar ever again. This is a promise that store-bought products simply cannot come through on.

Along with this, many products on the market simply seal up your brickwork, without allowing it to still breathe out necessary fumes, vapors, and preabsorbed moisture. When it comes to your chimney, vapor-permeability is a must! Trust us to get the job done right.

We’re Here for You

Water damaged chimney repairs can be pretty daunting. Let us help you. At Top Hat and Tails we’ve got a team of professionally trained, expert techs that have years of experience repairing damaged fireplaces and chimneys. Our friendly service techs will help you get your chimney back into tip-top shape so that you can enjoy your fireplace with ease and peace of mind for years to come.

Let’s get started – call 973-450-1947 or reach out online today.

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